WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the eighth episode of Pennyworth, "Sandie Shaw," which aired Sunday on Epix.
Everybody knows that Batman has one rule: no killing. It's the one thing that sets him apart from the cowardly villains he chases through the streets of Gotham. It's the line he never crosses, and the one thing that ensures that he is, truly, a worthy superhero. His moral code is just, but it does, sometimes, falter. Thankfully, he has one man at his side who can always steer him towards the light and what is right: Alfred Pennyworth.
Alfred isn't just Bruce's butler and assistant. He's his surrogate father and his moral compass. Alfred is always able to stitch Bruce back together, both physically and mentally. He's the one who reminds him of what he is fighting for, and who warns him when he's going too far. Essentially, in the Batcave, Alfred Pennyworth is the voice of reason.
And this is perhaps why the latest episode of the Batman prequel series Pennyworth has just crossed a line that it may never be able to come back from. Yes, the episode turns Alfred into a cold-blooded killer, and it may have just transformed the lovable butler we know from the comics into an irredeemable figure.
Ever since the death of his fiancée Esme, Alfred has been on a downward spiral. He's been desperately hunting for the man responsible for her death, a man he once knew (and ridiculed) during his time in the army: Captain Curzon. Finally, in "Sandie Shaw," Alfred faces Esme's killer. But when he is faced with a choice, Batman's future advisor takes an unbelievably dark turn.
The circumstances surrounding Alfred finally finding his fiancée's killer are rather complicated. In the episode, he learns that the police buried the investigation of Esme's death because Curzon is the illegitimate son of a powerful nobleman. Detective Inspector Aziz plays both sides by revealing the truth to Alfred but also warning the nobleman, as well as the Prime Minister, of Alfred. Aziz sets a trap for Alfred: he gifts-wrap Curzon for him as bait.
When Alfred gets there, he finds his target handcuffed and kneeling. But he's not alone. There is also a woman next to him, also cuffed, who, as we later learn, was Curzon's nanny. When Alfred realizes he's found himself in a trap, Inspector Aziz comes out of the shadows with several armed enforcers who are only there to kill Alfred and all loose ends about the whole messy situation. However, thanks to a bit of help from unlikely ally Bet Sykes, Alfred gains the upper hand, and he finally has a chance to get his revenge.
This is the part where we imagined that Alfred would change his mind, and that he would show signs of the man who will, one day, be the moral compass of the World's Greatest Detective. Instead, Alfred ends up shooting both Esme's killer and the nanny point blank, in the head. Both were pleading and crying for their lives, and Alfred proves to be absolutely cold-blooded and ruthless when he murders them. Surely, a man as resourceful as him could have found a way out of this situation without so many bloodshed, as we have seen in prior episodes. But here, he didn't hesitate to pull the trigger twice.
This is a far cry from the man we know in the Batcave, and we have trouble imagining that Bruce Wayne would ever look up to someone like this. Sure, Alfred has killed people before -- but it was done while he was in the army. This, shooting kneeling, crying people for revenge is something else entirely. Frankly, it's something that would have the Batman coming after you, with swift and terrible justice in the dead of night.
Developed by former Gotham collaborators Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon, Pennyworth stars Jack Bannon as Alfred Pennyworth, Ben Aldridge as Thomas Wayne, Jason Flemyng as Lord Harwood, Paloma Faith as Bet Sykes, Ryan Fletcher as Dave Boy, Hainsley Lloyd Bennett as Bazza and Jessica Ellerby as the Queen. The series airs Sundays at 9 pm ET/PT on EPIX.